The Best Winter Activities to Experience in New Zealand

Posted by:
24 Jun 2014

While the temperature may drop during the New Zealand winter, many days still remain crisp but sunny and clear. This means there are a variety of winter activities that you can take part in – even some you can do all year round!

Along with these activities, many sports are played in winter like soccer/football, netball and rugby – New Zealand's national sport. You may like to join a team or social league, even just watching provides plenty of entertainment.

Hit the snow

Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular activities during winter, and there are plenty of places to experience these around New Zealand. Our beautiful country is probably best known for our mountainous regions.

Snowboarders at Coronet Peak

The Southern Alps dominate the west coast of the South Island, and are larger than the European Alps. The Alps have many ski/snowboarding areas. In many of these places there is gear available for hire and lessons for anyone of any skill level. Coronet Peak in Queenstown is the most popular field in New Zealand, great to visit if you are studying at ABC College of English, Southern Lakes English College or Languages Schools New Zealand.

Mt Ruapehu, Ngaruhoe and Tongariro sit in the centre of the North Island - another premier destination for snow lovers. Whakapapa and Turoa are great ski fields on Ruapehu; Whakapapa is the most popular for beginners as a special area called Happy Valley is exclusively for those just starting out. It has its own café, hire complex and variety of experienced instructors. Those studying at Rotorua English language Academy or Taupo Language are the closest to this beautiful national park.

For those in Auckland and Northland, Snow Planet is New Zealand’s only indoor snow arena, with rental equipment and lessons available for everyone.

A whale watching adventure

There are a few places to experience these majestic creatures up close such as Auckland and Wellington, but it is the town of Kaikoura that is the most famous – and one of the only places in the world where you can see sperm whales.

While you can spot whales and dolphins all year round, winter is the best time to go if you’re really enthusiastic about marine life and water adventures. You may get a bit cold and wet, but during June and July you’ll be able to witness migrating whales like humpback, pilot and blue whales.

Kaikoura is nestled on the east coast of the South Island between Blenheim and Christchurch, so it’s a beautiful drive from the schools in Christchurch and Nelson.  Or you could take the ferry from Wellington and catch a bus down to experience the thrill of a lifetime. Don’t forget your camera!

Hop on a bike or board

Biking and surfing are two of the most popular year-round activities in New Zealand. The country is criss-crossed with world-class biking trails and has breaks up and down the coasts of both islands. You don’t even need your own bike or surfboard, as there are many places where they can be hired.

Biking is a great way to see the many beautiful winter scenes in New Zealand. Take your time and enjoy the view or challenge yourself on a mountain biking track though a picturesque national park. Biking during winter is great because it’s a bit cooler, but watch out for snow and wet patches on the ground! Choose a dry, clear day to go biking.

NZ by Bike is the perfect place to start planning your next adventure. On their website you’ll find plenty of guides and tips to help you plan. If you’re studying at the Rotorua English Language Academy, check out Ride Rotorua – they are open during winter with great gear to hire and tips on where the best trails are around Rotorua for any level of biking experience.

If you’re an avid surfer, winter is a great time to surf – all you need is a thicker wetsuit and a sense of adventure. Winter storms bring bigger swells so it’s not the best time to learn to surf. But if you’re an intermediate to advanced surfer, you’ll have your pick of breaks for winter surf.

 If you’re studying in Auckland or Mt. Maunganui, you’ll have no shortage of nearby breaks. Elsewhere on the island, you may need to travel a bit further for a surf adventure.

Students studying English at Christchurch and Dunedin schools won’t miss out either – but the further south you go, the more you’ll have to wrap up!

A girl surfing

What to wear in winter

In the South Island, winter temperatures can drop to -1 to 2°Celsius, and in the North Island temperatures range between 5 and 15-20°Celcius.

You should have a good winter jacket for colder days, but a light winter jacket or a waterproof coat/rain jacket will work on most other days. Sturdy walking/hiking shoes are also a good idea especially if there is ice or snow around.

If you’re hiking or playing in the snow, you may want to wear thermal undergarments and carry gloves, a hat and a scarf with you.


What’s your favourite thing to do in winter in New Zealand? Tell us about it in a comment below!


Picture credits:
Joz & Kat at Coronet Peak by Yun Huang Yong, CC-BY-2.0

Surfer girl by Dave Young, CC-BY-2.0